above - Wallace and Shirley Berman with Allen
an issue of Beat Scene 71 from early in 2014
BEAT SCENE is the
magazine of the Beat Generation. That's Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs,
Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Charles Bukowski, Richard Brautigan and co. For
those that don't know us - we are a paper magazine - 68 pages at present
- devoted to the Beat Generation and associated writers, artists,
musicians and whomever. We have been publishing for twenty two years and
the magazine has grown in that time. We consider it primarily an
information magazine. We list addresses, web sites, publishers etc.
Consequently we try and publish interviews and features by and about
those writers we rate highly.
Beat Scene magazine was started in 1988. I had been interested in the
Beat Generation, in particular Jack Kerouac, since around 1971. News of
the books, many of which were out of print in those far off days, and the writers
in the English media was pitiful, sporadic and patchy. Finding out about
Kerouac, Burroughs, Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti and the others was a
difficult thing to do, they were not the media favourites they are
today, relatively speaking. Serving a long apprenticeship by reading all
the books they published prior to and following I began to feel that
they needed better coverage and support in England, a place that would
act as some kind of focus for keen observers of the Beats. But it took me a long
time to get going. First of all I started Satori Books in 1982, with the
name stolen from Kerouac's novel SATORI IN PARIS. (Satori - sudden illumination or kick
in the eye - Jack Kerouac).
Beat Scene number one was a modest A5 booklet, as were the next four
issues, but it was a beginning. Andy Darlingon, Jim Burns and John
Platt, who ran Ludd's Mill, Palantir and Comstock Lode magazines
provided me with inspiration to produce a specifically Beat Generation
magazine. Ludd's Mill was an eclectic Yorkshire based fanzine that
featured the Beats periodically. Comstock Lode also featured the Beats
amongst the obscure music articles that seemed to be its chief staple.
I'd also have to say that Rick Peabody's Gargoyle magazine, based in
Washington DC, was something that filled my head with ideas and
ambitions. Incidentally Gargoyle still runs to this day and Rick is
still in there. He has my utmost admiration. More on Jim Burns later.
But back to Beat Scene and Andy Darlington provided the cover art for
that first issue which included stuff on Kerouac, Burroughs, Snyder,
John Clellon Holmes, John Fante, Paul Bowles, Charles Bukowski, Nanao
Sakaki, Patti Smith and more - so nothing has really changed has it. A
mere 200 copies were collated and stapled on my kitchen table and they
went very quickly. Subscription for 4 issues cost the astronomical sum
of £6. I hear some rare book dealers are charging £40 or $50 a time now
for that issue. You ought to be ashamed.
No 2 arrived in mid Summer 1988 and Carolyn Cassady's sketch of a young
Kerouac was our cover artwork. The mix was just as Beat with Lord
Buckley, James Jones (FROM HERE TO ETERNITY etc), Chet Baker, Burroughs,
Charlie Parker, Ginsberg and Neal Cassady in Texas, Zappa, Jack
Kerouac's rucksack in the mix. As we said on the back cover - really
I borrowed the artwork for No 3 from an early paperback edition of
Kerouac's THE DHARMA BUMS, everything then was done on a shoestring -
nothing has changed there either and the contents of that Autumn 1988
issue boasted Brautigan, Lew Welch, Raymond Carver, Gary Snyder's sister
Thea talking about Gary and Jack, Charles Bukowski and more.
No 4 was a funny one. I've always thought this one really got the
magazine going, plenty more people started to show an interest, and
sales started to increase sharply as word got around. Tom Waits, Phil
Ochs, Steve Wicks in Kerouac alley, stuff on the newly created Kerouac
monument park in Lowell, I was lucky enough to attend that opening and
met Joy Walsh, who ran the Kerouac newsletter Moody Street Irregulars
for years, and the maker of the monument Ben Woitena, one of the nicest
blokes I've ever met and who had a keen passion for chocolate milk
shakes and The Sir Douglas Quintet. A nice afternoon talking with him,
while Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg chatted in the next booth
in Brighams in downtown Lowell.
The only problem with that issue of Winter 1988 was that I took it to
the printers not having prepared a cover, it just slipped my mind. So a
hastily concocted affair done in the colours of my football team
Coventry City resulted. An image of Kerouac from the Lowell Sun graced
the cover. Well, as George Formby used to say, it turned out nice again
didn't it. And four issues in one year! Like how did I do it?
The last of the smaller format was No 5 and I broke the obsession with
Kerouac by putting cartoonist Robert Crumb on the cover. Dharma Bum John
Montgomery wrote for that issue. For those of you youngsters out there,
John was Henry Morley in Kerouac's THE DHARMA BUMS and a real Beat
scholar and eccentric wit that I corresponded with for a long time
beginning in the early 1970s. I met up with John late in the 1970s. He
proved to be as genial and eccentric as his letters. Jim Burns, who has written for the
magazine since day one, again produced a reliable article on John Clellon Holmes. Jim was editor of his own magazines in the 1960s and
1970s, I discovered Jim when buying his Palantir magazine in the mid
1970s. The Beats were regular events in that excellent publication and
it often included new poetry from people like John Clellon Holmes.
Looking back these issues of BEAT SCENE were obviously primitive and basic things but
full of enthusiasm for the Beats and all the associated writers, musicians and whomever that are forever linked with them.
Really going for it, number 6 was the first full sized edition, it
appeared in Spring 1989 and it was where I started to actually play a
minor role in typesetting the magazine. which was produced at a little
design place in an old refurbished warehouse, under the guidance of Bea
Haston, a young Scottish girl, who used to cycle to my house with proof pages and the very shy
Rizvana Vadaria. I don't know how they put up with me as they got me
going on Apple Macintosh computers. I must have driven them mad with all
my corrections and alterations. The issue was dedicated to Mary King, a
friend I'd made in Kerouac's hometown of Lowell who was murdered that year. Rick Peabody of
Gargoyle was the first USA correspondent for Beat Scene with that issue,
the cheque is in the post Rick! Rexroth, Ricky Lee Jones, Philip Whalen,
Kerouac, Burroughs and their hippos were among the cast.
Michele Engel where are you? Michelle did the cover art for No 7, again
it was Kerouac. Michelle, with all the boundless energy of a teenager,
was mad on Kerouac and I'd met her at a great Kerouac event at a little
college in Northampton in 1981, she subsequently put on a play about
Kerouac a few years later. I recall driving up the M6 on a bitterly cold
night in the dead of winter, after a day teaching and with a raging
cold, battling against a blizzard and arriving to see the play just as
the actors were saying their final lines. So I'll never know. But thanks
Michelle. Included in that one were Kathy Acker, a real Kerouac
interview, a profile of North Point Press, Dexter Gordon, Burroughs and
Number 8 had glossy covers for the first time and Bea Haston and Rizvana
designed the best cover so far, I'm not saying any of them were
brilliant, far from it, but in Beat Scene land it was a step forward. We
interviewed Carolyn Cassady, we had articles on Robert Frank, Gregory
Corso, Diane Di Prima, Jack Micheline, who proved to be very prickly and
Always I had included Charles Bukowski, I had to have something about
him in Beat Scene and around the time of No 9 he wrote to me out of the
blue with a huge packet of unpublished poems that he wanted me to
consider for publication in my 'curious little magazine' as he called
it. He was a nice bloke. Even then, 1989, he was pretty famous,
notorious even, able to command big bucks for his writing - and here he
was asking me, a tired teacher running a tinpot magazine if I would
consider his poems? I still can't believe it. He had some black and
white photos taken by his wife Linda in the garden of his home in San
Pedro, one holding his cat was used on the front cover, where I
introduced a colour for the first time, garden shed green, lovely. Some
of the Bukowski poems went in that issue, as far as I know it was only
the second time that Bukowski had been published in England. Jim Burns
knows all about the first time and it is another story.
We did an interview with Lydia Lunch in that issue alongside one with
It was a giant leap for me with the full colour cover of number 10,
Allen Ginsberg on a promotional visit to London and was that the year he
also read in Newcastle and crowds of people walked out halfway in
response to Allen's explicit reading that night, I stuck it out to the
bitter end. I have to confess that I included some material in this
issue that really had no place in a magazine about the Beats, but the
issue did include that Jim Burns interview with Ginsberg, poetry from
Jack Micheline, more from Bukowski, Nelson Algren and Charles Plymell.
I must add that during the first few years of Beat Scene I published a
completely independent music magazine called ZIP CODE. It ran for 17
issues. Initially I had a partner, Steve Wicks, for the first three
issues. Steve bailed out at that point, a little acrimoniously sadly. I
produced another fourteen issues and had some fun with music when really
I was far too old to be doing it. Interviews with an unknown Kurt Cobain
and people like John Martyn kept me going when really producing two
publications was draining the life out of me. ZIP CODE died about 1993.
If it had continued I think I would have died instead, I nearly did
Number 11 was a nice Kerouac cover, that famous one with a young Joyce
Johnson (Glassman) in the background. There was an interview with
Bukowski, I did that myself and stuff on Neal Cassady from his old buddy
Charles Plymell, who shared a house with him in San Francisco. Lenny
Bruce featured and we really must do more on him. Anne Waldman, who has
always been supportive, was interviewed.
Flexi Records. We included one with No 12 and it wasn't just any old
record. Charles Bukowski (he asked me to call him 'Hank' when I kept
addressing him as Charles in letters) - allowed me to produce one. He
asked for no fee - which shows his nature - and I sent him $100. Which
he probably spent at the races. Well I know he did because he wrote and
told me so. The flexi was expensive for me at the time. Again the rip
off rare book dealers are having a field day selling this issue for $50
upwards. Don't do it. I have copies in a box here for a modest fee!
No 13 had John Fante on the cover, a writer that I've tried to promote
for years through the magazine and who well deserves it. Interviews with
Michael McClure, Robert Creeley, Ed Sanders, Ted Joans, Charles Plymell,
new and unpublished poems from Bukowski, Richard Farina. Reflecting on
it that's not a bad lineup is it?
I'm quite pleased with No 14. Visually at least. Neat full colour photo
of David Cronenberg and William Burroughs on the cover, around the
filming of NAKED LUNCH. I managed to get The Shadow, Jim Carroll,
Richard Brautigan, Hunter S. Thompson, Bukowski, Whalen, John Giorno and
more into the issue. One of my favourites.
A jigsaw Jack Kerouac graced No 15. I think it looked good. A little
bonus with that number was the Bukowski poetry broadside we gave away to
subscribers. It is something that it would be nice to do more of for
subscribers, many of whom have been there since day one. But limited
resources make it difficult.
The Ken Kesey issue, No 16, is actually still available. (and Ken
actually signed that copy for me). We upped the print run considerably .
Bukowski let me publish a section of his last book (in his lifetime)
PULP, again I owe him a lot. Dizzy Gillespie, Beat Women (by Jim Burns),
Brion Gysin. I have a feeling that the Jim Burns article on Beat Women
sparked off the interest in these shadowy figures and in a small way
moved people like Rick Peabody and Brenda Knight to produce books on the
Everyone always asks who is that kid with William Burroughs on the cover
of No 17? Well its someone called Spencer Kansa (doubt if that's his
real name). Taken at the Burroughs home in Lawrence, Kansas at the time.
He did a bit on Burroughs for me, going to the Burroughs house in
Lawrence, Kansas. And then disappeared. That issue was
very nearly the last as the magazine was basically bust, I was bust,
quite heavily in debt. I refuse to take any advertising, feeling that it
compromises the magazine and simply I don't want the hassle it brings.
But this financial strategy does cause problems as I rely upon sales
I had to go to another, much cheaper printer for No 18 and frankly it
shows as I hate that issue and am very glad its sold out. It looks cheap
and nasty. (That's Ken Kesey holding a copy of it). However the contents were ok with Neal Cassady, Carl Solomon,
Allen Ginsberg and others keeping the beat. But I didn't waste any time
in going back to my original printer Kevin Bowes to get some quality
Number 19 - Burroughs featured
prominently in this issue, as he does in a lot of the issues, we looked
at his recordings. The second part of our Neal Cassady story was
included, first hand reporting from Mr Charles Plymell who shared a
house with Neal in San Francisco. Lord Buckley - well what can I say, I
love him, he was in there. Listen to his THE NAZZ and prepare to laugh
yourself silly. And an obituary for Bukowski.
Number 20, I wish I could do it again but tons better. The Bukowski
tribute issue. There are no more copies believe me. Our biggest selling
issue by far and fast too.
No 21. I'm out in London with my lovely wife, she has long arms from
carrying heavy cases full of Beat Scene on regular trips to London.
Debating with snotty people in some poxy shops in the capital about
whether they've sold 4 or 5 copies of the last issue, they can't find
the receipt, can we come back next week? Against a wall of some
squalling grunge band record, my idea of hell. It rains all day - it is
very cold, we struggle to get paid, except for good old Compendium
Bookshop Chris Render, the late Mike Hart, good blokes. Get home tired, drained, cold and there was a nasty cutting
letter waiting for me about the third and final part of our Neal Cassady
profile. I've never spoken to the very well known lady who criticised me for
'jumping on the bandwagon and making lots of money' - since, what a
joke. A sick and very bitter one. Totally dismayed I think about getting
off the Beat 'bandwagon' but stuff her, I carry on. Why are some people
so nasty and negative? And of course, after over thirty years of being
the best bookstore by a country mile in England, Compendium finally
closes. A very sad day.
Hank and Georgia Hubbard (is that her correct
name?) and a fridge were the cover stars of No 22. I
understand Georgia is no longer with us. A candid shot of Bukowski and a
friend. Great photo, if a little cursed. That's a very long story that
I'll tell sometime.
Number 23 was back to Kerouac, that famous photo of him in Merchant
Marine uniform taken by Edie Parker graced the cover. We looked at the
recordings of Allen Ginsberg, believe me there are a lot. We talked to
John Martin who ran Black Sparrow Press and published Bukowski and we
had articles on Greenwich Village, City Lights, Kerouac and more.
Jan Kerouac, she was really stitched up in her short life. Her and Gerald
Nicosia tried for years to gain control or at least some say in her
father's estate, alleging that wills were forged and so on. She wanted
to maintain all of Kerouac's documents in one place but the long winding
and very bitter legal battle went against her. Sadly it seems the
forecasts that the estate would be sold off gradually seem to be coming
true and the archives of one of America's greatest and most
compassionate figures will be spread far and wide. I thought this would
happen but hoped it wouldn't. Jack wanted his estate to go to his nephew
Paul Blake, I have a copy of his letter to Paul stating this fact,
written the day before he died. Sad and that's why at the time Beat
Scene tried to provide coverage of the legal wrangle. But money talks
doesn't it. Jan Kerouac was on the cover of No 24. She died in her mid
40s of kidney failure & complications. All so very sad. (Postscript -
September 2001 - the Kerouac archive now resides in the Berg Collection
at the New York City Public Library - so there is a god.) The
latest is that Paul seems to be trying to revive that legal claim on the
Kerouac estate. It just goes on and on and if there were any decency
around the executors would have done the honourable thing, but they
haven't as far as I can see. The will bequeathing Jack's estate to the
Sampas family has been ruled a forgery in late 2009, so commonsense
would seem to point to Jack's nephew Paul Blake being the rightful heir.
A recent book about Jan Kerouac, edited by Gerald Nicosia, who bravely
helped her in her legal struggle, despite a hate campaign against him,
has been published of late.
Beat Scene 25 featured William Burroughs in Paris heavily. As you
probably know Burroughs, Ginsberg and Gregory Corso spent much time in
Europe in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Indeed Burroughs lived in
Europe, rarely going back to the USA til the late 1970s, see Barry Miles
book THE BEAT HOTEL for excellent lowdown on that.
No 26 was where the magazine came into contact with American
photographer Larry Keenan. You may have seen Larry's photo of Michael
McClure, Bob Dylan, Robbie Robertson and Allen Ginsberg in San Francisco
in 1965? The photos were scheduled to be the album cover of Dylan's next
recording but somehow didn't make it. Larry took a lot of pictures in
the mid 1960s of people like Neal Cassady, Ken Kesey, Ginsberg, Philip
Whalen and Michael McClure & others. We featured an interview with him
in issues 26 & 27 & some of his priceless Beat photos. My own favourite
is Michael McClure & Bruce Conner coming down the steps of a house in
SF, somehow it seems to beautifully capture things. Or is that just my
fevered imagination? Larry is not in the best of health these days and
finds it difficult to do the thing he's always done best, take photos.
Go to http://www.jackmagazine.com/keenan/keenanbio.html
Well, do you want to hear the inside story on every
single issue? I thought not, so I'll skip them here and jump ahead to
almost the present.
WE ploughed on and published No 41 in October 2002 and we published
No 42 in March 2003. That includes some previously unpublished photos of
Charles Bukowski and Jon and Lou Webb in New Orleans. And I must mention
we have revived our little Transit magazine, No 11 came out, quickly followed by No 12 early in 2003 - featuring Diane di Prima, Jack
Hirschman, Joanne Kyger and others. Number 13 came out at the end of
Beat Scene 46 appeared late in
2004. A rare photo of Kerouac typing at his home in Florida graced our
cover. We moved on and released issue 51. When magazines
regularly come and go I feel this is a minor miracle. Without getting the sad
violins out, the magazine survives without advertising or sponsorship
and sometimes it is a struggle to get by. BUT, Beat Scene is more than a
commercial enterprise - to me it helps in the documenting of a group of
writers who are often marginalised, even 50 years after they first
emerged. Just look at Michael McClure, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Diane di
Prima, Gary Snyder and others, do you see them much in Borderstones? Do
they elbow T.S. Eliot, the perennial Faber & Faber titles off the poetry
shelves, not much they don't.
I'd say we are hanging on by our fingertips but if we look down we are
gone. So get in touch and pick up a copy of the only magazine on the
planet that is totally focused on Kerouac, Burroughs & co. People think
I'm joking, when, in the little editorial at the start of each issue, I
ask them to tell their friends or even go crazy and buy them a copy. But
I'm deadly serious. I'm also deadly serious about Beat Scene and see it
as a lifetime project.
Number 60, a Jack Kerouac special issue, marking forty years since his
death in October 1969, came out in October 2009. And to jump a
little, Beat Scene 80 will appear in October 2015. How time goes past so
quickly when you're having fun.
News of our other little Beat
Magazine - Transit issue 22 came out.
McClure, di Prima, Tom Clark, David Meltzer, Plymell, Pommy Vega, Kirby
Doyle & more. And BEAT by Jack Foley, an extended essay on
the Beat Generation. One of the most intelligent pieces ever written on
the writers of the Beat Generation. One of just 100 copies. e-mail
more info on that.
And we have a little side project - The Beat Scene
Press Pocket Book Series - with 49 titles so far. Number 49 is a Gregory
Corso interview chapbook.